Every empire has its seat of power, and for Roman Abramovich that was the corporate box at Stamford Bridge. After he bought Chelsea football club for an estimated £140 million in 2003, on match days the box would be awash with politicians, diplomats and oligarchs. Beyond an opportunity to enjoy a luxury spread, a ticket granted access to the busiest diplomatic back channel in West London. Every home game became an opportunity to conduct deals: business, personal and – crucially, as far as keeping the Kremlin onside goes – political. According to club accounts, before Abramovich stopped attending games three years ago following wrangles over his UK visa, he had spent between £1 million and £3 million on the hospitality boxes every year since 2011. The former US President Bill Clinton was spotted at one match, and former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi at another. At the centre of it all stood Abramovich: a blue Chelsea scarf draped over the expensively dressed-down attire of a billionaire on his day off. Sometimes, he would be flanked by one of his seven children, or one of his three former wives. The Stamford Bridge faithful would sing the name of this modern day emperor. Now, however, the 55-year-old’s seemingly untouchable power appears to be ebbing away. While he has so far escaped sanctions or the seizure of assets which have affected other oligarchs, the net appears to be tightening. Labour MP Chris Bryant has claimed, using parliamentary privilege, that Abramovich was identified by the Home Office in 2019 as having links to the Russian state as well as to “corrupt activity and practices”. The jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, meanwhile, has accused Abramovich of being one of Putin’s 35 “key enablers”.
Abramovich, who amassed his fortune during the privatisation of Russian state assets following the fall of the Soviet Union, disputes any reports suggesting his alleged connections to Putin, or that he has done anything to merit sanctions. Nonetheless, perhaps in anticipation of what is to come, the man who is worth an estimated £9.2 billion has embarked on a fire sale of his Western interests. He has put Chelsea up for sale through American bank the Raine Group, with a price tag of £3 billion. The portfolio up for sale also includes his 15-bedroom mansion in Kensington Palace Gardens replete with an underground pool all yours for £170 million. There are several luxury flats on Lowndes Square in Knightsbridge, worth a total of £50 million and registered in the name of a Seychelles company called LS Investments. He is also seeking buyers for a triplex penthouse in the 37-storey Chelsea Waterfront building, potentially worth another £30 million. It has floor-to-ceiling windows with panoramic views across Abramovich’s beloved Chelsea stadium. He also owns Château de la Croë, a 19th century villa on an exclusive section of the French Riviera, previously home to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and a 200-acre ranch in Aspen, Colorado. Also included in the mans arsenal is his £1 billion superyacht, The Eclipse, reportedly equipped with its own military-grade missile detection system and registered in Bermuda, is moored in St Maarten in the Caribbean – where he also owns an $89 million estate on the island of Saint Barthelemy. His fleet of private jets and helicopters, and of course a £264 million Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner described as the world’s most expensive private jet are not up for sale so far as we know. So, could you afford the Abramavich lifestyle?